July 01, 2020

Cortez Masto Delivers Floor Speech on Housing Assistance During Coronavirus Pandemic

Cortez Masto Housing Floor COVID

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) spoke today on the Senate floor on the importance of federal housing assistance as the Senate works to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Senator Cortez Masto called for the Senate to provide additional assistance to keep Americans in their homes during this challenging time.

Senator Cortez Masto’s remarks are available in VIDEO FORMAT. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

I’m here today to support my colleagues’ calls to keep Americans in their homes. The House has already passed a number of bills to do just that, and the Senate needs to do the same. In this pandemic, housing is health care.

I know that all Americans have had their lives upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

But I’d like you to imagine for a moment how much more chaotic your life would feel if you found out that tomorrow, you’d be evicted.

Imagine trying to make sure you’re washing your hands while you’re living in your car.

We’re in the middle of a public health crisis where we need people to be socially distancing—and that means they simply must have a safe, stable place to be at the end of the day. 

We realized this months ago, and that’s why in my state Governor Sisolak put a hold on evicting residents through August 31st of this year.

Congress also passed the CARES Act to provide unemployment benefits and one-time relief. Those funds, plus the ban on evictions, were intended to help keep families in their homes.  

In my state and across the country, the wave of evictions we’ve been holding off for months is going to come crashing down if we don’t act now.

Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the entire country—in May it was over 25 percent, as high as the national rate during the worst of the Great Depression.

On top of that, some Nevadans haven’t yet received their unemployment benefits. And even people who still have jobs have seen hours or wages cut.

Across the country, almost half of workers earning under $40,000 a year have lost income. So some people just don’t have the ability to fully pay for their rent or mortgage.

The thing is, in Nevada we were already in the midst of a housing crisis, even before coronavirus hit us.

Almost half of Nevadans rent—45 percent. And of those renters, half are cost-burdened in some way, meaning that they pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent.

The Silver State has the biggest shortage in the country of affordable housing for the very lowest income Nevadans—we have just 19 units for every 100 that we need.

In 2016, Nevada was evicting individuals at the rate of 37 a day. That’s more than 13,000 a year.

So, again, imagine what’s going to happen when we lift that eviction ban.

Eviction isn’t just a matter of spending a few days scrambling to find a new place. The financial consequences can follow families for years. And the effects on children’s physical and mental health—well, there’s no way to undo those. 

Believe me, I know. The foreclosure crisis hit Nevada in 2008, and I saw up close the pain that caused throughout my state. Lenders took the homes of more than 219,000 Nevada families.

That’s why it’s so vital that we pass legislation to help Nevadans and people all over the country pay their rent and utility bills when they cannot safely go to work.

I support Senator Brown’s Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act, as well as other bills introduced by my colleagues to keep homeowners in their homes. These bills keep families housed and provide essential stability to the rental and mortgage market.

We can’t expect landlords to keep shouldering the burden of missed payments. Landlords have bills to pay as well—mortgages, taxes, insurance and staff. Without assistance, many of them may go bankrupt or can be forced to sell their properties.

Experts estimate that Nevada is going to need nearly a billion dollars in rental assistance to keep families housed this year. Landlords can’t lift that load, and neither can state budgets that are already stretched too thin.

So let’s focus here on the essentials, the basic need for things like shelter. Let’s keep people safe and off the streets.

Let’s pass Senator Brown’s rental assistance bill, Senator Reed’s Housing Assistance Fund bill to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, Senator Menendez’s housing counseling bill, and the others we need to prevent an epidemic of homelessness.

Across this nation, people are responding to the pandemic by staying home. The Senate needs to do its part by making sure those homes are safe and stable, so that Nevadans can teach their children, care for loved ones who are ill, and avoid spreading coronavirus to others. In the midst of a global pandemic, housing is health care, and we owe this to each other.

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